You can't always get what you want

The Rolling Stones got it right at least once. Actually the refrain continues to get it right.
After "You can't always get what you want" three times, it says sometimes you find what you need.
I'm also reminded of the first line of Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled: "Life is difficult." Realizing life is difficult paradoxically makes it easier. You're not so disappointed when you can't get what you want.

I think it is dangerous to believe you can get whatever you want. When you don't (and you won't always), you'll be tempted to ask what went wrong? Whose fault is this? That won't be a pathway towards wisdom and calmness.

The Gospel says we can indeed find what we need, but our trouble is likely to be that we don't want it. (And yes, I know the Rolling Stones had no intention of proclaiming the Gospel in their song. I'm doing to them what often gets done to the Bible, yank one bit of it totally out of context).

What do I want that I can't get? One thing, I'd like to be famous. Of course, I wouldn't be conceited about it, I'd use my worldwide fame for good, to encourage people towards God, and to recognize new talent. But God seems to have a plan that will result in his kingdom coming in fullness at the right time, without needing the impact I could make from a global platform of fame and influence. (His creativity and love of mystery are indeed astounding).

Another thing, I don't like to work that hard. I like frittering away time. I'd love it if I could fritter away hours upon hours and not feel bored or guilty when I do. But God, who has so abundantly given me what I need, says one thing I need is to be responsible.

I only want one thing

says my mind all the time, and it takes focus and memory for me to remember that isn't the one thing I wanted yesterday or  the day before. "I only want one thing," always comes out of a context where there are other things present that I take for granted, or am currently disenchanted with.

Love and conditions

"For someone who loves unconditionally," my inner skeptic says, "God sure does bring a lot of rules." But God's rules are not conditions to love, but outlining what is good for us. Good parents, unconditional loving parents, will tell children 'no'. Don't touch that, it burns. Sit down and fasten your seatbelt, or you'll get hurt. Not conditions to love, but explanations how things work, warnings of real dangers.

Two kinds of peace

One, to attain to pleasant circumstances, and hope that this great moment could last forever, or would always return. But it never does.

Another, to present to God your messes and raw emotions, and trust that they are only temporary.  You may well receive the perspective that what distresses you doesn't matter all that much. But you may not feel that as a calming certainty, only as a theoretical notion of how you should be feeling, don't give up on presenting to God and asking for help.

A startling song

Mac Brock's song I Am Loved depicts a meeting with our heavenly Father.  The refrain distracted me at first:
There is no disappointment in Your eyes
There is no shame there is only pride
I thought "no disappointment?" That's overdone. Surely I've disappointed God in many ways.
But as I thought further, I think the song is right.  I am indeed forgiven, so deeply forgiven. That's what the Scripture means to say our sins are removed from us as far as the east from the west. That's what it means when it says he will remember our sin no more. That is what the loving father showed when the prodigal came home, dressing him anew in fine robes and the golden ring and commanding a feast.

Why do I hesitate at this picture of the depths of grace? Am I still thinking that being saved by grace is fine for other people, but I'd like to earn a gold star? Isn't the central act of this story really about the wonder of who God is, the forgiver and reconciler? Why do I keep wanting to (or why am I driven to) think the story needs to be about how well or poorly I have done?


Anniversary

46 years ago, attending a campus fellowship group I hadn't intended to go to (but was too embarrassed to leave), I ended up praying to ask Jesus Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I was astounded by the sense of peace that I felt for the next hour or two. But the feeling faded, and the next morning I wondered what on earth I had done.

In those first few hours, I see a pattern I've seen many times since. God is surprisingly powerful and active, but also surprisingly subtle. Sometimes he shows his power, sometimes he does not, and you have to remember what you have seen of it.

In this imperfect world

a strategy of "I will be OK as long as nothing bad happens to me," is not going to work. It may already have obviously failed, but if it hasn't, don't trust it.

A real strategy must face that bad things happen that we cannot always prevent. We should try to prevent bad things where we can, but we cannot prevent them all. How to recover when bad things happen?  Seek a relationship with God. God instructs and guides how to live so that bad things happen less often, but he also offers wisdom and grace to recover and keep going when bad things do happen.